A Question About the School Bus

Hi Readers! This morning I was telling my husband that I’ve been hearing about  parents who are  afraid to put their kids on the school bus lately, and he asked, “Why is that?” and I was stumped. I actually DON’T know why this new fear has cropped up, and I’m not even sure it’s widespread.

What I’d like to know, then, is if you have heard of parents fearing the school bus and what it is they’re worried about. Bullies? Traffic accidents? I’ve always heard school buses were a very safe way to travel.

So that’s my question for the weekend. And even if you don’t have any answers (I realize not everyone is thinking deep school bus thoughts all the time), have a great weekend anyway! — Lenore

156 Responses

  1. Some parents in my area are afraid to have their kids ride the bus because of the other kids on it. There are some rough kids that ride the bus near my home, including one kid who has such emotional problems that he goes into psychosis at times. There have been threats made (“I’m going to kill you!”) and hitting, and this is an elementary school bus. The parents don’t feel that the bus driver handles the situation well enough so they’d rather pick them up themselves.

    Another reason some parents don’t let their kids ride the bus is because it is such a long ride for them. Some bus rides in my town can be almost an hour long, and they’d rather have their kids get more sleep in the morning or be home sooner in the afternoons. That’s personally why I drive my 6 year old son. I figure he’s at school long enough that an extra 2 hours is too much.

  2. The things I’ve heard from parents at my daughter’s school are that school buses don’t have seatbelts (though I’ve also heard that it’s safer to ride in a school bus without seatbelts than in a car with seatbelts), and because there can be bullying problems on school buses. I’ll be interested in hearing other reasons.

  3. Safety is only a minor issue for me. It is mainly about bussing in general because it destroys communities.

    Read my article here (I already know you have)
    http://urbanhippy.ca/schools/as/centers/of/communities

  4. I’ve heard the bully argument too. Hasn’t been a problem on the buses I’m familiar with but if it were I’d like to think we’d address the bully problem, not just yank our kids off the bus.
    The seatbelt argument is another one those cases where common sense is wrong – bus seats are safer without belts, according to the research I’ve seen.
    I’ve also heard the “ride is too long” argument too. Oddly, it’s from parents who would rather drive their kids (15 min) vs have the kids spend 30 min on the bus. Some parents then turn around and come home. So the parent is on the road for 1 hour a day to save the kid a net half-hour of travel time. Frankly, in a case like this, my time is worth way more than my kids’ time. Besides, my kids like taking the bus.

  5. I was able to walk to elementary, but I hated riding the bus to middle school. There were a couple of kids in my neighborhood (a nice suburban kinda place) who were truly awful bullies and teased me horribly. The drivers were never particularly interested in keeping the kids supervised beyond making sure everyone was (mostly) sitting down. Once, one of the little punks cussed out a driver and she, uh, gave a very inappropriate verbal response which ended up getting her fired. I dreaded the bus home every day! (Though I have no idea if this sort of thing is what parents are worried about.)

  6. To get to the closest school bus stop, I’d have to drive my daughter nearly to the school itself, at which point I might as well just go the extra two blocks. Also, the ride is at least 45 minutes long, even though the route only covers a couple of miles. I’m not worried about safety, but this seems impractical and unnecessarily time-consuming when I can swing by and drop her off on my way to work.

  7. I would argue busing creates communities in rural areas where we wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunities to see other kids of different ages otherwise. My first bus driver when I was in elementary school was extremely crabby and strict and wouldn’t let us talk, let alone move or bully other kids. But my second bus driver who I had for the last 7-8 years I was in school was awesome. We had a small bus because we were the furthest out and the roads were too narrow to turn a big bus around in, so we also had to pick up the wheel chair kids, so it often took about an hour to get to and from school, but we read, did homework and talked a great deal. On occasions where I missed my bus my mother would drive me to my friend’s house a few miles away and I’d take her big bus, and it was complete chaos with the older kids beating up the younger kids and people throwing open condoms around. Their bus driver was deaf and seemed to not notice at all.

  8. We had a tragic accident in our town where a school bus lost control on some gravel and a turn and killed a young girl.

    The problem for us is the high turn over for school bus drivers so we’ve ended up hiring people who aren’t as qualified as they could be.

  9. To ride the bus to school, my kids would have to be @ the bus stop @ 6:45 am. School starts @ 8 am(tardy bell). I have to drive 2 miles to the bus stop (private roads, so no bus in the neighborhood). I can drive 5 miles to the school and leave the house @ 7:40-no brainer! When my kids ride the home in the afternoon, the bus driver has no control: kids stand up, change seats, fight, etc. Chaos reigns. Other schools have bus monitors to keep everyone in check, but not at our school. Then there is the “education” that goes on the bus. The older children educate the younger kids with cuss words and human development. So, this is why we limit our bus rides.

  10. If my children went to school I’d never put them on a school bus. It can be like ‘lord of the flies daycare’ in there and it is a crapshoot whether you get a driver that can control the chaos.

    Thankfully they don’t.😀

  11. The issue I’ve heard is bullying as well as misbehaving due to lack of supervision. A friend won’t put her kids on the bus because one of her daughter’s friends had several disciplinary issues (and was otherwise a good kid) that occurred en route. The kids don’t have any experience with being responsible for their own behavior, so when they’re stuck together on a bus with one distracted driver for supervision, they act up.

  12. The division of ages can mean that pre- and post-adolescents are grouped together in the same buses. I’ve heard parents worry that the difference between the youngest and oldest middle schoolers can expose 9 year olds to explicit discussions of sex by 13 year olds on the bus. And of course, the age difference can exacerbate any bullying, too.

  13. I was an elementary school teacher and my experience with the bus was that is was poorly controlled, extremely chaotic and loud. I don’t want my daughter to ride the bus, because I just feel like it would be overwhelming at this point (she’s just going into Kindergarten). When she is a little bit older, I will let her try it out, but if she doesn’t like the craziness of it, I’ll take her since we live a short distance from school. She will also be allowed to ride her bike or walk with friends.

  14. In my case, it’s because I remember all too well what the bullying and unrestrained chaos was like when *I* rode the bus. As an above commenter noted, it was Lord of the Flies in a small metal tube.

    I much preferred it when walking to school became possible in middle school. (Same district, we just lived much closer to that school than my elementary school.) And when high school started, the district switched to providing free bus passes that were only good during the hours necessary to get to and from school, rather than pay to use school buses for children that age. MUCH easier to avoid bullies on the public bus, surprisingly.

  15. I have not heard of anything official about why parents a6e afraid of the bus, and I am not a parent myself, just a college student who stumbled on this blog and found it really interesting. But I can tell you that while I have had some wonderful bus drivers, I have also had some questionable characters for bus drivers. One bus driver in particular who I had in middle school would come really late to pick me up in the morning, and sometimes would play Chicken with other cars pulling out of the parking lot after school. Since I am totally blind, and since other students on the bus laughed when he was playing Chicken, I had no idea how dangerous it was, and only mentioned it in casual conversation to my mom years later when another driver got in trouble for playing Chicken in a news story. Needless to say, she kind of freaked out and said I should have told her sooner. So maybe parents have heard of questionable bus drivers like these and don’t want their children to whind up with one of them.

  16. I wish my kids (kindergarten & 1st grade) could walk to school. We’re just a tad over a mile away. But it’s a VERY busy road with no sidewalks. It’s just not safe.

    The bus comes at 6:40 in the morning for classes that start at 8:00. I will be driving them to school. The extra sleep is just too important!

    However, they are the first ones off the bus in the afternoon so they will be riding home on the bus. No sense for me to get caught up in the traffic twice a day if it’s not necessary! I guess I’ll see what the conditions are like on the bus as far as bullying and safety in general. But I’m certainly not worried about it!!

  17. I remember that the school bus was pure chaos when I was in school. In high school I had to ride the bus with all the farm kids and it took forever to get home (the route was very circuitous). Once I got my license I bought my first Cadillac. It was a very used Eldorado. (Which is the origin of my nickname. The “rado” part was missing from one of the nameplates on the car.) My friends and I were able to cruise to school in peace, quiet, and relative comfort.

  18. My daughter will be going to a pre k program in NY and she is 4.5. I personally feel she is just too young to go on the bus by herself. In addition I know 2 people who’s kids were dropped off at the wrong place and were wandering around the neighborhood for 3+ hours, one was 5 the other 6. Yikes. Both were extremely distressed by this. So I will wait until she is a little older. Our area is very rural and I would hate for her to be dropped off at the wrong spot.

  19. In my urban school district the main reason parents don’t let there kids ride the bus is bullying. This includes parents I know that work for the school district transportation so there may be fact and not just fiction here. My daughter attends a late starting charter school so all the kids on the bus are from her school. I think the age mixing opportunity to navigate peer relationships in a less supervised manner has been good for her. Since the school really promotes the idea that children are leaders with a respondibilty to promote social justice the older kids take that responsibility seriously and there is very little bullying and none toward the younger children, which is a great so I consider the age mixing a bonus

  20. I always walked to school. We were 2 blocks from my elementary, 3 blocks from the high school and a 10-15 min dawdle to the junior high (if i stopped at the neighbor hood grocery store it could take me 25 minutes to get home🙂 ). Every once in a while, I would go home with a friend and get to ride the bus…oh how fun it was. I enjoyed it. While chaotic, as a student, that really never bothered me. As an adult i’ve gone on many many field trips, the chaos does bother me more, but then I remember that as a student I was partially responsible for the chaos and then I cut them some slack.

  21. Well most of them don’t have seatbelts, which is crazy. I love the bus is safer vs walking arguement when you factor that in!

  22. It really depends on the town, I don’t fear busses, per se. But our suburban town has a huge problem with fighting on the buses, graffiti (lots of 5 dollar words) and other innapropriate behavior. My daughter used to complain about this all the time, and unfortunately, until we started homeschooling, I had no choice but to force her to ride.

  23. My children rode schools buses for most of their time in school with mixed results. For the most part there were few problems until they were in middle school and high school. Most of the middle school issues (poor bus behavior) was dealt with quickly. The high school buses were mostly way to crowded on the theory that most kids would find rides and the problem would solve itself but by the time my youngest was in high school (he graduated last year) the problems were way worse everywhere. Bus drivers complain of no support, and reports of bullying have skyrocketed. Below is a link to a story from my neighboring town illustrating the worst case situation for kids on a bus.
    What was most frustrating about the case was the bus driver was charged with negligence for not controlling the kids but he had reported incidences and followed the schools procedures for dealing with the bullies so as not to be charged with child abuse! The charges against him were eventually dropped.

    http://www.post-trib.com/news/porter/2617638,new-pctrial0820.article

    I would still send my kids on the bus but I would talk to them about what was going on and not be afraid to be proactive in talking to the transportation people and the schools if anything seemed amiss.

  24. Buses are loud, and basically unsupervised. The bus in our area is only K-2 yet my kid has been bit, hiy, punched, and exposed to language that would make a sailor blush. In other words, he has been exposed to real life situations and has learned to fight back as well. In addition, I get an hour and a half free time . Sounds like a win win to me.

    Seatbelts are a waste of taxpayer money. Buses are safe. The seats are close together and claustrophobic for a reason. Seatbelts offer little added protection in normal use sitations. Also, the logisics of getting a busload of kids to wear the seatbelts for so long would be dizzying. People want all these things, but they all cost money that would e better spent elsewhere.

  25. My daughters ride the bus home from elementary school because they are the first ones off the bus and the school is just a mile from my house. I take them in the morning just because it’s easier. They can leave when I leave and it only takes me a few minutes extra to drop them off.

    My older son however (in the 6th grade) I do not want to ride the bus and it’s because of the other students on the bus. The bus is mostly unsupervised (my daughters tell me what happens on their bus and they are only on it for a few minutes a day) and I worry about what can happen. Plus, his school is a little further away and would mean a longer bus ride.

  26. Generally it’s because kids on busses can be mean and it’s a place where bullying happens.

    However, I don’t get not letting your kid ride on the bus if there haven’t been problems. My daughter loves riding on the bus. Also the few people that I know that had problems spoke to the school or driver and told their kids to sit next to the driver and it wasn’t an issue.

    The no seat belt complaint is ignorance. Busses are safer when the riders are not bussed, they’re made differently than cars.

  27. In addition to the ones that have been mentioned (bullying problems, long ride times, seatbelt debate) I know at least one family who keeps their son off the bus because he has extreme nut allergies and kids eat on the bus a lot. I do think a lot of bullying happens on the bus and drivers aren’t equipped to handle it (at least in some places). In general I try to handle bullying by building the kids’ skills in handling it, but I can understand why parents would pull their kids off the bus in a really bad situation.

  28. The kids on my school bus were absolutely vicious, and that was in a small, well-off, tree-hugging, peace-loving college town. I live in a larger city now and I hate to think what the buses here must be like.

    Actually, I know what they’re like: a 9-year-old special ed student was sexually assaulted last fall by a 13-year-old. (http://www.wlwt.com/news/21588078/detail.html)

    I was miserable on the bus as a kid, because it was a tailor-made situation for bullies, but it never occurred to me to ask Mom to drive me instead. Everyone took the bus and that’s how it was.

  29. My son goes to an early intervention preschool (he’ll be 3 in late November) since he has a speech delay and some other developmental issues (sensory and motor skills). He’s been going since February. They asked me if I wanted him to ride the bus and I didn’t hesitate. I drive him to his 12:15 class, twice a week, and would have to pick him up at 2:15 sharp. With the bus, he shows up at my door at 3:30! Much easier for mom… The bus has a 5 point harness system and he has an aide to ride with him. His HIGHLIGHT of the day is the school bus! Seriously, it’s his favorite thing ever.
    People were surprised that I wasn’t concerned. I’m not sure what there was to be concerned about. I figure a bus is safer than my compact car, he has an aide, and a safe seat… And he loves it. He loves getting off the bus all by himself and socializing with the other bus riders.
    Maybe some parents are worried about bullies or their kid getting exposed to stuff? I have no idea. If a bully wants to bully your kid, s/he will find a time and place to do so – school bus or elsewhere. And peer pressure is everywhere.

  30. For me, it’s the lack of seatbelts. You have to strap them into the car like they’re being shot into space on the end of a missile from the time they come home from the hospital until they’re old enough to drive themselves, but you’re supposed to just stick them on a school bus at age 5 with NO RESTRAINTS at all? What the???

    I understand that the physics of a bus vs. car accident are a lot different for the passengers in the car than they are for the passengers in the bus, but it is too much of a paradigm shift for me (and I’m pretty darn free range) to let my kids flop around on the speeding yellow doommobile.

    Plus, it’s not like the bus drivers are rocket scientists, you know? And they’re in charge of discipline AND driving, simultaneously, which is hard for me with two – and I’ve got 10000 toys and an onboard DVD player in my minivan. It is too much of a leap of trust, for me, to let some stranger drive my unrestrained kid in a bus full of other kids who are yelling, throwing spitwads, and in other ways distracting the driver.

    Our elementary school is right on the way to Daddy’s office, so when Little Miss is ready for school, Daddy will drop her off and I’ll pick her up.

  31. Well, I am a bus driver.
    The kids are unsupervised. It is my number one priority to drive the bus safely. To do so requires me actually watch the road. When the kids act up I have to watch them and not the road. In a 40 foot bus, it’s probably not the safest thing to drive using only my peripheral vision. I cannot pull the bus over every time someone acts up either or the kids will be late getting home and the parents waiting for their kids have fits and chew me out in front of the kids further undermining my authority. Also I have a schedule to keep. there are three schools in the town I drive for and we go directly to the next school for pick up. If I am consistently late I can lose my job. There’s massive turnover. We get paid lousy. The kids behave badly. The traffic/weather/disciplinary pull overs and kids who don’t get off at the correct stops make us late. You can’t effectively discipline the kids either for lack of time or no real consequences ( in my school they get written up, the paperwork makes it to the school office the next day and then I have no idea what happens next but they keep acting up so probably nothing major). I have been looking for a full time job that does not include 40 screaming kids in a confined space for two of the three years I’ve been driving. No luck so far. I think parents should be required to put in a couple of days of bus monitor duty every month. It would certainly change the tune of both the frustrated drivers and the complaining parents.

  32. @Jane: I’m from Cincy originally and wow. That story is awful. I did have a pretty terrible time on the bus, too. However, I don’t think not riding the bus would have ended the teasing – for me, at least. It was just an additional 30 minutes or so for mean kids who picked on me at school to pick on me some more. In hindsight, I wish I had more support in how to handle the kids than just avoiding them. I don’t think having my parents pick me up from school would have helped. In fact, I think kids would have made MORE fun of me for having my mom drive me home. Like you, it wasn’t really an option. Everyone road the bus.

    Bullies and mean kids are the worst.

  33. My son is in the preschool special ed program here in LAUSD and we put him on the bus every morning at 4 yrs old. They pick him up at the door, and all their buses are equipped with 5-pt harnesses for kids that young/with IEPs. The summer program this year got cut back drastically due to state budget cuts here in CA – he rode the bus for three hours a day to get in two hours of classroom time. But he ADORES the bus – many mornings he moves too fast for us to keep up with him.

    The first day of the summer program he wasn’t put on the bus at the correct time of day – he was 3 hours late getting home. But the trans department is VERY good about staying on the phone with you until your child is located, and he was home shortly after I called because his morning driver saw him at the school, knew he wasn’t supposed to be at school, and took the initiative to bring him home before I’d even called looking for him. My only complaint with the busing system here? They will not release a child to anyone without proof of ID and your name being on the list of approved recipients. While I understand using this system in cases where there are custody issues or other hazards to the child, it makes it tough to leave a neighbor in charge in case of minor emergency, etc. – having it be he default policy seems like useless overkill to me. Additionally, every time there’s a substitute driver you have to prove your identity all over again and our afternoon drivers are MUCH more likely to be swapped around/subbed than the morning shift for some reason. Really, the pain in MY keister is really the biggest reason I’d take him off. But when he gets into regular elementary levels, the closest school is visible from our curb, so he’ll be walking, and the jr/sr highs are both within hearing
    distance, so he’ll be walking there, too. I HATE the local “end of school day” traffic and refuse to add to it.

    One of the women from my church has kids my mom’s age who attended school in the 60s in urban Los Angeles. They wound up the only white girls on their bus and suffered significant amounts of harassment (including sexual) from their fellow students, so were taught to drive ASAP. Fellow student issues are apparently a longstanding reason to not take the bus.

  34. For all those terrified of school buses because they don’t have seatbelts, the fact is, even when buses get into accidents, no one ordinarily gets hurt. (I’m talking school buses, not intercity charter buses that you hear about now and then flying off bridges or rolling over on the interstate. If you live in an area where your school bus travels the interstate, what I’m saying may not apply.)

    I have NEVER in my life heard of a child being injured on a school bus in whatever local community I lived in at the time..You don’t even hear about bus accidents that don’t cause injury to the bus passengers more than once in a blue moon. You can’t say either of those about car accidents.

    Besides, if a bus does get in an accident, the biggest danger is that the kids will be trapped. I can’t think of a worse nightmare than a bunch of panicked kids strapped into bus seats while the bus burns. The logistics of getting forty panicked, possibly injured kids out of seat belts is WAY, WAY different than getting a handful of people out of a personal vehicle.

    Everyone rightly insists on seat belts in cars because seat belts make you safer IN CARS. It just doesn’t work the same way in a school bus.

  35. I’ve always driven my kids the 3 miles to school, because the bus stops are *never* near our house. One year, the stop was 2 miles further south, putting them 5 miles away from school! Other years the stops have been closer, but either on a very busy road, or near a sexual offenders home!

    This year, I had to look into bussing, because I am starting a job with hours that wouldn’t allow me time to drive my younger son. The stop this year is still far-1.2 miles away- but the drop-off time was perfect for me to get off work & be at his stop on time….or so I thought. I spoke to the driver the day before he was to ride & I was told he decided to switch the route & the drop off time would now be 30 min. earlier! I spoke to the school transportation dept. & they told me the driver would not be allowed to switch his route & the supervisor told him not to. The next day, my son rode the bus & sure enough….the driver had switched his route!! Luckily, my husband was there early (because we didn’t trust this wouldn’t happen). But if we hadn’t been there? Would they have left my son in 95+ heat, over a mile away from home, with 30 minutes until I picked him up? Would he have been kept on the bus til the end of the route? Would they have taken him back to school? I couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone & so my son will not be riding the bus until they can place a route closer to my home, within a short walking distance.

    And…I know I shouldn’t follow the hype of news stories, but with these 2 recent headlines in my local area, it’s no wonder parents drive their kids:

    http://www.wesh.com/news/24687407/detail.html

    http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/local/west-volusia/2010/08/20/sex-offenders-live-near-many-school-bus-stops.html

  36. We’ve had some terrible, deadly bus accidents here. Couple that with the fact that bus drivers come from a central pool ( so our school has no control over it) and are poorly paid…well, it doesn’t give me warm, comforting feelings. We all know motor vehicle accidents are common-and what is a bus but a giant motor vehicle. Heck, that’s one of our walking to school arguments! I just feel safer with me behind the wheel than a complete stranger. Thankfully, my son can walk next year when the school is rebuilt.

  37. I began letting my 4 year old ride the bus home from preK last year and it was fine. It’s a preK thru high school bus and the big kids watch out for the little kids and my son gets a chance to know more neighborhood kids than he otherwise would. It’s a 20 minute ride in the morning and 45 in the afternoon. The only problems we had were with other 4 year olds. Our 12 year old neighbor sat with our 4 year old for the first few weeks and introduced him to his friends. I think the bus is good for him since we are too far to walk.

  38. I took the bus to elementary school for two years and was bullied constantly. Some days I got my lunch back after it was used as a football for the entire ride, some days I didn’t. Granted, it was just an extension of what went on in school, but on the bus I had no way to walk away and there was zero chance an adult would appear to interrupt the other kids “playing”. I prayed daily to be old enough to walk instead!

  39. I was bullied on the bus both years I rode to junior high. However, I enjoyed the ride anyway and I loved our bus driver, Mrs. Wallace!

  40. In my own experience as a student, I was bullied, I was in a bus accident that was entirely the driver’s fault–he was speeding and we were all saying, jeez, this is way too fast, and next thing he was off the road and we were hanging over a small-ish cliff and he had no idea what to do once we’d crashed, so we kids took matters into our own hands and evacuated ourselves–and another driver turned out to be a drug dealer.

    With my own kids, the bus ride to a school 1 1/2 blocks away takes 45 minutes, during the half-year that my daughter rode a bus in kindergarten she experienced a series of bullying incidents that I only ever heard about months later, another friend found out that her child had been choked and couldn’t breathe and the driver was clueless, and even on a good day, I don’t want my kindergarten child to hear what the 5th graders are saying on the bus.

    My girls are walkers.

  41. pentamom has it completely right. School buses also have high and padded seat backs that function as a containment system for the children. They are extremely safe, much safer than personal cars.

    There are two other arguements against seatbelts besides the impossiblilty of releasing 40, or more students from seatbelts while the bus burned – which is quite enough IMO. One is that they are vulnerable to tampering. A piece of gum would destroy them. The other is: imagine one of these bullies pulling a belt out and swinging it around at another child? THAT could cause injuries!

    As to discipline on the bus… well, you are right, you get what you pay for. When my mom drove bus as I was growing up it was a decent wage. You might not pick it as your job if it was the only way you were supporting your family, but it was a great addition to our family finances. By the time I was driving when my daughter was 3, there had been a wage roll back, and then a freeze for about 10 years. I made more waitressing than I did driving bus – not even counting tips!!

    Personally, I sent my daughter on the school bus for two years, and then she decided (in Gr 2) that she would rather take the transit alone than be on the bus. I went with her a number of times, and then made sure I met each driver when they switched (about 5 times a year) and she rode to school on her own, and was picked up by me or one of my parents after school. She didn’t ride both ways alone until towards the end of 3rd grade.

  42. I hate the idea of school buses because of the amount of time kids spend idly sitting on them. I hear of rides as long as an hour +, each way. If I strapped my kid to a chair in her bedroom for 2+ hours per day, I’d be in jail right now for neglect.

  43. There’s no bus available for my kids, but I remember my brother getting horribly bullied at the bus stop when we were children. That’s something I’d definitely be on the lookout for if my kids were school bus riders.

  44. As a kid I was afraid of the school bus, even though I rode it every day because there were a bunch of creepy kids at the back. I was from a small town, but the group home where they sent kids from the cities who had gotten into too much trouble with gangs/drugs/crime was on my bus route.

    I also got bullied at the bus stop, but it was by my big sister, so I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have avoided it.

  45. I had my kids ride the bus, but I did pull them off for about 2 months when my older son was being bullied on the bus. There were other kids complaining and eventually after myself and other parents continued to call and write to the district transportation deptartment, cameras were put on the bus. The two bullies were caught smoking pot on the bus and hitting kids on the tops of their heads. The bullies were expelled from school and the bus, the bus driver was fired (for ignoring obvious illegal behavior), and my boys started riding again.

    I think that if there is a danger to your kids on the bus, you have the obligation to follow it through and get it resolved, but then you teach your kids that it’s time to ride again.

  46. We get out at 2:30. Late buses do not leave the school till 3:45 – and teachers are supposed to be off duty at 3:30. I don’t blame parents for pulling their kids off and picking them up.

    Walking isn’t a safe option because the kids live over 2 miles from school across 4 lane highways.

    We need more bus drivers, but even in this economy it is hard to find them because
    1. Basically part time work
    2. Pay isn’t great
    3. requires special license and background check.

  47. A lot of people are paranoid about school buses not having seat belts, but statistically school buses are as safe as they come. Because of the design of the seats used, studies have shown that seat belts would increase the risk of accidents.

    In our county I’ve seen school buses driving erratically. A lot depends on what driver handles your route. Even so, we have mixed high school and elementary so there can be a lot of trouble on the bus ride and most kids don’t enjoy it.

    Off topic from this thread, I was reading a news site and there was a highlighted article “Advice From America’s WORST mom!!!” I thought, “Oh no no no, let’s hope this is octamom or some lady that is pimping her daughters or something and…. click …. sigh. It’s about Lenore.”

    http://theweek.com/article/index/96342/The_last_word_Advice_from_Americas_worst_mom

  48. Thanks Tameson for your input.

    You are 100% bang on the money that all parents who bus their children should have to volunteer as ride-along monitors once a month.

    We used school buses for day camps for years and never once had a bus discipline issue. Because we had teens working as monitors. And they sang. On some routes for 90 mins each way. A bus full of singing kids (aged 4-14, btw) is having way too much fun for discipline problems.

    My elementary school had grade 6 students work as crossing guards, so why couldn’t they also work as bus cheerleaders?

  49. I have heard ‘the bus’ as the blame for every bad thing that a kid may do, ie swearing, sexual questions, and on and on. These items are usually mentioned in hush-hush tones to the side of the playground between fretting moms.

  50. We were never actually afraid to have our kids ride the bus, but it was in many ways a miserable experience, and we were happy to let them drive/ride with friends when that became possible. No, it wasn’t the bullying — there was some at the elementary level, but it wasn’t awful and it was good for them to learn how to handle it — but because there was music played on the bus, music they hated, and at such a loud level that not only could they not read or talk without shouting, but I actually worried about it damaging their ears.

    I know one mom who drove her kids to school because it took 10 minutes, and they would have been on the bus for an hour.

    Where my in-laws lived, there were 15-year-olds driving the buses. I’m generally against age discrimination, but not only were these kids not seasoned drivers, but it’s hard to enforce discipline when you are younger than your passengers.

    That said, I was grateful for bus service when we needed it. Being grateful does not mean you can’t see room for improvement.

    I think there should be zoning regulations that require all new housing developments to pay for putting in sidewalks, not only in the neighborhood, but all the way to the nearest schools. Often kids can’t walk to school, not because the walking itself is dangerous, but because walking in the road is.

  51. I enjoyed riding the bus as a kid, in spite of intermittent bullying, but I remember the atmosphere being one that I know a lot of parents wouldn’t like. One of the 5th/6th graders’ favorite activities was to tell the most obscene and violent stories possible in hopes that the younger kids would get upset. To this day I have never heard anyone tell such violent and crude stories. I learned obscene words for sexual activities on the bus that I’ve never even heard adults use since.

    Bus drivers have a limited ability to control stuff like this. They have to focus on driving, and they aren’t going to be listening in to kids’ conversations. And no kid is going to report something like this; most of us would never have repeated the kinds of things we were hearing.

  52. I reached the exact opposite conclusion this week: it’s less safe for me to drive than it is for her to get on a school bus.

    My daughter attends a regional gifted and talented Magnet school for which direct bus service is not offered by the school district. In the morning, I have a choice: I can drive her to our zoned school from which she can catch a transfer bus to the Magnet, or I can drive her to the Magnet.

    From an efficiency standpoint, it’s a no-brainer: if I have to get in my car, I might as well take her directly. But from a safety standpoint, this has not worked out to my satisfaction. Our route includes about six miles of freeway, parts of which haven’t been upgraded in about fifty years. In the 200 trips I made with her during the last school year, we had at least 6 high-speed near misses. Let me say that again for emphasis: we came close to death or serious injury at least a half a dozen times. There were fatalities and uncountable nonfatal accidents on that stretch of freeway during the same period – we got gridlocked sometimes as frequently as once a week as emergency crews cleaned up the carnage and rushed people to hospital.

    Near-misses MEAN something: they mean you’re not far from experiencing a catastrophic event. I would LOVE to drive my daughter to school again this year – I love the feeling of shepherding her and it gives us some quality time before she starts her hectic day. But I don’t think it would be in her best interest. In most accident scenarios, a one- or two-ton passenger vehicle simply can’t compete with a seven-ton school bus when it comes to survivability. That’s just the basic physics of it.

    My daughter has expressed concern that school buses don’t have seatbelts. My reply to this was, “If one of those hyperagressive idiots hits a school bus, what you’re most likely to see after it’s over is his car pancaked and wedged underneath the bus. You’ll feel a huge jolt as it happens, but the high seats should contain you just fine, and you’ll remain well above the impact zone, so no part of the bus or vehicle should impinge upon you. However, if one of those hyperaggressive idiots were to hit our minivan instead, you’d not be likely to see anything at all, because chances are you’d be either dead or unconscious right after it happened.”

    Yes, there is bullying on the bus; riding a school bus is rarely an experience that is pleasing to the social or aesthetic sensibilities. But for the twenty minutes it takes her to get to school, it’s not about comfort or entertainment – it’s about statistics and safety.

  53. In our area the kids usually have to change busses at the high school. The little kids (even down to kindergarten) have to ride bus with the high school kids. It’s not my own kid I’m worried about, it’s everyone elses.

  54. I feel very strongly about the bus issue.

    In our suburban/rural community very few children ride the bus. The parental fear about riding the bus borders on hysteria at times. Yes, bullying occurs on buses. But like all the other dangers that your children face, there are ways to prepare for it and to handle it if it occurs. Bullying happens in the the lunchroom and at recess (both times at school when there is little adult supervision and a “Lord of the Flies” mentality occurring) but we don’t yank our kids out of those places. Instead we teach our children how to stand up to a bully, to come to a parent and explain what is going on, and as parents, we go to school administration if necessary, to address it. Why is the school bus any different?

    Yes, there is a wide range of ages on the school bus. But instead of focusing on the huge, overstated risk of an older child bullying a younger one, let me tell you how cool my kindergartener feels when a 5th grader that he knows from the bus waves to him in the hallway. Like most of the things we fear, we often focus on the rare yet spectacularly horrific event, instead of balancing it against the incredible opportunities on the bus to make friends from other classes and other grades as well as getting to know the children who live around them.

    Yes, bus commutes can be long. My family lives 7 miles away from school. But because they are the first ones picked up and the last ones dropped off they ride an hour and a half each way. They get up at 5:45am to catch the bus at 6:15am. They get home at 3:30pm. Most of the parents at my school are shocked and horrified at those times. But failure to ride the school b/c it’s not convenient or the ride is too long is just another example of how schizophrenic parenting can be. Why do we spend hours teaching our children to save the earth, reduce pollution, and preserve fossil fuels and then drive them back and forth to school b/c it is so much more convenient?! Do you really believe that you are raising a child that will grow up to be anything other than the gas-guzzling citizens that we are if we don’t even put them on the school bus?! Does anyone other than me and my children look at the oil-devastated waters of the Gulf and realize we, the consumers, are just as much to blame?

    In addition, I find it ironic that the school keeps the children inside during recess when there are ozone alert days but has them all breathing in the exhaust fumes of a mile long car-rider pickup/drop off line right in front of the school buildings. There is a state law that does not allow the school buses to idle in front of the school b/c of the exhaust but the car rider line parents sit in their vehicles, engines running and spewing exhaust every where so they can run their heater or air conditioning while they read a book or a younger sibling naps in the car while they wait to drop-off/pick-up their kids. There are 2 car rider lines at my children’s school and so many cars that it akes 30 minutes for the lines to finally empty. And yet we wonder why the rates of asthma and airway illnesses are increasing and increasing, particularly in school age kids. Are we really that stupid??!!!

    Finally, the most important reason of all. I have been a stay at home mother for 10 years. But I am not my children’s chauffeur. Just like I am not their maid or their cook. I refuse to raise a group of children who think the adults are put on earth to serve them. We are a family and as a family we all do things that are not always convenient to support one another. But we do not form all of our day around what is easiest for the children. Even the youngest child should understand that he, too, plays a role in caring for himself and he, too, plays a role in caring for others. Remember that you are not just raising children. You are raising the adults those children will become.

    Furthermore, when my children are on the bus they can get their homework and reading done or they can simply play with their friends. If they don’t get their homework done on the bus that’s fine, but it will have to be done when they get home instead of playing with dog. If they stay up after bedtime playing or laughing in their rooms, then they will be very tired in the morning when the alarm goes off. For them, the bus ride is a powerful reinforcement of choices and consequences. Some people think it is way too early for them to have to deal with these things. I wonder what age they think children should be? At college when they stayed out too late to party and missed their morning class? We’ll start now, thank you.

    So, you can see I told the truth. I feel strongly about the bus issue.🙂

  55. If a bus picked up the kids from my house or from the entrance to the neighborhood, I would consider it (we have buses for other schools that do this, but not for my children’s school). But like others, by the time I drive them to the closest stop, I am two blocks from school and might as well just finish the ride.

    Also, over the last 6 years of sending my kids to school, I’ve realized how much I value the rides to and from school. I can set the tone for the day, encourage them for whatever they are facing that day and be the first one to hear about it when they get out of school.

    For me, it’s not so much “fear of the bus” but just a conscious decision to be available to my children at key times of the day.

    Yeah…it’s a little more inconvenient for me, but for my family, it is time-well-spent.

    Blessings,
    Sandy

  56. When my daughter was about to start kindergarten my mother gave me a long lecture on the dangers of the school bus and what a fool I waws to allow her to ride it. My mother was under the impression that they are very dangerous because if they are in an accident o many children are on it to be hurt and you don’t know who the driver is he could be a child molester or murderer. My daughter has ridden the bus without incident for 3 years now.

  57. @Stevie Taylor: You perfectly expressed my feelings about riding the school bus. You rock.

    I had both good and bad memories from riding the school bus (like most everything else from childhood). But the idea of asking my mom to get up and drive me (be my personal chauffeur) to school because I didn’t *like* the bus ride was ridiculous. I never considered making such an absurd request because I knew what the answer would be – “Are you crazy? You’ll ride the bus like the rest of the kids at school. In my day, I had to walk to school. You’re lucky to have a bus to ride!” My how things have changed.

  58. My grandson will probably not ride a bus. It will depend on many things. With my kids, a few issues…

    Kindergarten and 2nd grade… we lived 10 blocks from the school. The bus picked up my kids last in the morning, but they were the last drop off after school. They rode the 10 minutes in the morning. They did not ride the hour and a half in the afternoon. In addition, my kindergartener was left at school TWICE!!! His sister was on the bus, couldn’t see her brother, told the driver, he told her to sit down and shut up, he was probably in the back. TWICE I got a call that my son hadn’t made it to aftercare, and did he go to school that day? The after school bus. So it was 5:15pm before anybody knew my kid was not where he was supposed to be. Finally found him hiding, shaking, nearly hysterical under the play equipment. Nobody noticed a tiny 5 year old by himself after the buses left.

    Later, in 4th and 6th grades, our 5th grade neighbor girl had her glasses snatched off her face and stomped on by a kid who thought she was ‘too smart’, my son got called all kinds of names (still small, long hair, glasses, smart, skipped a grade so he was 10), got punched by an 8th grade kid. The bus driver punched a kid on that bus. And eventually got fired for driving the bus drunk. No thanks.

  59. I just thought of another bus issue. Parents are afraid to let their kids walk to/from and wait at the bus stop by themselves. I even know middle school parents who wait at the bus stop in the middle of winter with their kids. It’s more convenient to drive your kid to school in your own vehicle, which you can start ahead of time to warm up in the winter, then to walk out to the bus stop and wait there with your kid in the morning when it’s cold and snowy.

  60. Wow, after reading all this, it makes me very grateful that we’ve had good experiences on the bus. I guess the kids haven’t been too bad or the driver’s been good. Either way, I’ll make sure I keep talking to my kids to see that the rides are still going well. Last year, my kids wanted to make treats for the driver as well as their teachers at the end of the year.

  61. I don’t sense a lot of fear in my community about the bus.

    My kids hate the bus so much that they prefer to walk to school…in any weather. Sun, Rain or Snow. Most people are shocked when they learn that my kids walk to school. “What? Isn’t that kind of far? Don’t they send a bus to your neighborhood?” My kids choose this and I’m fine with it.

    The other day I was talking with a mother who plans on driving her new middle schooler to the end of her road in order to catch the bus that will not come down the road. Kids at that age are actually expected to walk to the end of it! (gasp!) It’s a whole .35 miles in length…and this family doesn’t even live at the end of it, so it would be less than that. Then she plans on sitting in the car until her daughter is safely on board the school bus.

    I’m wondering just how long this will really last. This mother has not experienced teenagers yet. I can just imagine this daughter’s embarrassment. (“Mo-ther!” with rolled eyes) I do respect this particular mom and I believe that she will relax as she gets accustomed to her daughter growing up a little.

  62. Something else I like about driving my son to school – we review for tests and prepare for school during the ride. I’ll quiz him on spelling words or talk about what’s coming up that day. It’s good quality time. And we have an extra 15-20 minutes since the bus pick up is a lot earlier than we get out of the house. I already have to wake him up at 6:00am. I’d rather not wake him earlier.

    And…dropping him off at school means I get to work on time (something that didn’t happen all summer while he was at camp and had a different schedule).

  63. My kids are 15 and 19 now, but when they were younger, I was one of those parents. My fear was going back to my early teen years when I rode a bus to school. On more than one occasion, the kids got into fights on the bus, picked on other kids, drank alcohol, I even remember one occasion when some sexual situations were going on with one young couple. Not to mention in my day (not sure if this is still the case) but there was no adult supervision on the bus, other than the driver who, God willing, is keeping his/her eye on the road, but the drawback to that is, no one is keeping their eye on the kids. Today, I feel like maybe I was a little extreme in my fear, but I know that’s where it came from.

  64. Lord of the Flies in a small metal tube” describes my bus experience very well. Children are trapped and there is no help. And so many things can be done in even a short bus ride behind those high seatbacks where the driver can’t see. I walked to and from school as soon as I was allowed because if I moved quickly enough, I could be up on the bike trail overlooking the road, where the thrown rocks couldn’t hit me, by the time the bus rumbled past.

    Some children enjoy the pleasures of cruelty, everything from joining in the gleeful chorus of “Here comes the class outsider and let’s all mock her!” as soon as the favorite target boards the bus (and wasn’t that a lovely start to a school day) to pinching a girl’s inner thighs because she can’t move away. For them, the bus is an ideal environment. Why put other kids through that if it’s feasible for them to walk or be driven?

  65. I wonder how much is parental experiences. I detested every single second that I spent on the school bus and bought a car with my own money the day I got my driver’s license so that I could drive myself to school. And I only rode a bus for 3.5 years of my schooling. I get car sick and a bus is the worst of car sick. I think that bus may have been the reason that i joined so many after school activities – someone then had to come get me.

    As a result, my child will never ride the bus. There really is no point. I have to be up and out of the house for work every day anyway. Her school is only slightly out of the way and we both get to sleep in an extra hour. On days I work from home, we’ll ride a bike or walk.

    I am amazed at the amount of people who are saying “well by the time I drive my kid to the bus stop, we’re almost at school.” Why the heck are you driving your kid to the bus stop to start with?

    “Furthermore, when my children are on the bus they can get their homework and reading done or they can simply play with their friends. If they don’t get their homework done on the bus that’s fine, but it will have to be done when they get home instead of playing with dog.”

    Why in god’s name do you WANT your children to do their homework on the bus? Granted the idea of doing anything on a bus but praying “please don’t let me puke” over and over is foreign to me but I don’t recall buses being a hotbed of quiet and concentration in the afternoon. They are full of a bunch of unsupervised kids who’ve been cooped up in a school all day and need to burn energy. Even the best buses, with no bullying or other bad behavior, are still crowded and LOUD. I suppose it’s good practice for studying during the middle of a frat party in college but not for much else.

  66. Before my son started riding the bus, I was nervous about bullying and the “extra” education he’d get on the bus. On his first bus ride home, second day of kindergarten, no one had told us he needed to transfer from one bus to another, and he stayed on the wrong bus. So he was completely on the other side of town, and his bus driver had no idea where he was or that she was supposed to have him when I called the transportation office to see why his bus just drove right by our house. Once we found him and got things ironed out, though, he made the transfer very easily every day, and his bus ride experience was very good. He has had fantastic drivers who maintain excellent control on the bus. The only other issue we had was with a child who took my son’s hearing aids out – this is a HUGE no-no – they are incredibly expensive and he doesn’t allow anyone to touch them. That only happened once, the bus driver nipped it in the bud, and it hasn’t been a problem since.

  67. My school bus experiences were almost totally pleasant, but it was a long trip (15 miles) to a parochial high school, so not your average group of kids. It was also the only time the girls and boys schools mixed regularly. There was a little bit of teasing and I really hated it the first week. After time, I realized I was glad I only had to see the boys twice a day, rather than dealing with their stuff all day in class.

    One reason I think we behaved ourselves was because riding the bus was a privilege (it was not free), and we could have gotten banned by the coordinator, who was a volunteer and parent. I am not sure if kids can be banned on publicly funded busses. Since bussing seems to be considered a luxury in this economy, why not? People can be banned from my transit system for repeated offenses, though this seems difficult to enforce. You do have to take a stand somewhere, though, don’t you?

    Another unusual reason we behaved was that we respected our bus driver, who was a vet who got the job because of his medic skills and wanted the job because he was going to community college. He was definitely not a loser and was a really nice, responsible guy not that much older than us. I was the first one on the bus in the AMs and he would try to get there early so the bus would warm up. He even showed me how to get in to the locked bus, which I only did when my fingers and toes were turning blue. I made him a giant gingerbread bus cookie for Christmas the second year I rode with him. I’m pretty sure other kids brought him cards and gifts too.

    That second year, there had been an honest to god serial killer (am I lucky or what) called the Zodiac who planned to target a schoolbus in Northern California, and our driver had to deal with highway patrol officers following us because we had been deemed the best target in the region due to our route, probably parents grilling him about security, us kids joking about what was over the next hill waiting for us, and other nasty stuff that was not part of his job description. The only bad thing that ever befell us was that we came upon a fatal crash and he had to stop (because he was trained in first aid and one girl on our bus fainted).

    I simply did not have the option to not ride the bus, as my dad could not leave his business for hours each day to get me to school. All of this second-year unpleasantness did help me mature.

    I still think of that driver when people talk about unsung heroes. I hope he graduated and lived happily ever; but since I changed schools I lost track of him.

  68. I did not have time to read all the response, so sorry if I am echoing.

    My husband rode the bus; I walked. He said that he learned too many inappropriate things way too early from older bus riders. As a seven year-old, he became very knowledgeable of masturbation and oral sex. Aside from safety, the intermingling of such a varied age group with no supervision is his complaint.

    My complaint is the time cost. An hour to get home versus five minutes for me to pick up. Time on the bus is time not in the yard, not wrapping up homework, not unwinding from the school day.

  69. My mom never let me ride the bus because of how long it took. My mom was a SAHM so she could pick us up and drop us off for a total daily commute of 15 minutes. Because we went to private school that used the public busing system plus we lived in the “rural” area, it would have have taken an hour and a half and 2 buses each way.

    Plus, the bus stories I heard were disturbing, even to my 10 year old self.

  70. Well, I know of at least four cases in the past two years involving school bus drivers arrested either for molesting children or producing child pornography. That may be what has caused the fear.

  71. Of course I’m sure there’s been more than four cases of teachers doing that and no one seems afraid to send their kids to school.

  72. Hi,
    My kids are grown now, but when they were young, we kept the bus riding to a minimum. It had nothing to do with the safety of the bus, or the driver directly. It was because the kids on the buses are out of control and the bus driver is not empowered to do anything about it. The kids parents (parents of the problem kids – bullies, etc), don’t see anything wrong with their behavior. Kids have been stuffed under bus seats, shoved out the windows, all kind of things, and there is little to no recourse. On the one hand, you could keep letting your kids ride the bus, and give them some kind of self defense course. You could tell them there are mean people every where (this is what I did in some cases), and let them deal with it. Or sometimes you just pick your fights. This was one I picked. My life was just easier, and theirs was also, by choosing this one issue to just avoid rather than confront.

  73. I could not find a way to contact you so I am asking my question here. I want to know you thoughts, ideas, advice ect. on having free range kids when you live in a small community and a subdivision that has 2 sex offenders in the neighborhood. One on the same street and one that is one street over. I am scared to let me daughters outside to play by themselves. They are 9 and 5 and I do not let them play outside alone.

  74. sara b – do you know what type of sex offenders they are? If you’ve been following Lenore’s blog at all, you must know by now that the term “sex offender” tells you nothing at all because it is a brush with an extremely, ridiculously broad stroke that paints people which most of us would never worry about

  75. […] A Question About the School Bus Hi Readers! This morning I was telling my husband that I’ve been hearing about  parents who are  afraid to put […] […]

  76. One snowy day I saw the bus slide down the hill sideways. As a school teacher I know that bullying, loudness, no seatbelts, long distances, and no adult supervision are the reasons many of the parents drive their kids to school in my town. I mean, the bus driver is supposed to be driving, not paying attention to what is going on behind them. I think they need another adult on the bus.

  77. I’m curious…do kids even walk or ride their bike to school anymore? When I was a kid busing was very rare. Even when I was as young as 6 years old, I remember walking to school on my own for the most part. I started riding my bike to school when I was responsible enough to take care of my bike and make sure it was locked up. I have friend with a son in high school and she won’t let him walk to school even though it’s less than a mile from their home.

  78. My husband won’t let our daughter ride the bus. As he puts it “bad things happen on the bus”. My response was, what, did someone get murdered? Sigh. He never had to ride the bus because his parents were teachers. I rode the bus until I could drive and never had any problems. I think it’s the bullying thing that most parents are worried about. There is only one adult and they can’t possibly police the entire bus very well and drive. Since I’m at the school most of the time anyway (I’m on the PTO) I just drive my daughter. Maybe one of these days I’ll convince the hubby to let her ride.

  79. My little girl just turned 3 in May. We enrolled her in headstart for this school year and while they offer transportation both ways, she will not be taking it. She is still rearfacing in my car and on the buses she would not even be in a carseat. I do agree that school buses are safer, but until she is out of a harnessing carseat she will be getting rides to school. After that i have no issues with the school bus, but i do feel that being properly restrained in a carseat at her age and size is VERY VERY important.

  80. There’s nothing wrong with the bus, per say. The problems are what people have listed – extremely long bus rides, and busing – which is a failed experiment in the name of desegregation. It has destroyed neighborhoods. I bet you can correlate the rise of the helicopter parent to when busing started. I’m almost confident that busing brought on the demise of the “sandlot” – free neighborhood play.

    I know there are bullies, and there will always be bullies. However, every little name call or “your mama” is not bullying. Sometimes kids need to learn to deal with these things on their own. It’s just another thing that they need to learn to function in the real world. Speaking from my experience as a middle school teacher, the parents that want to fight every one of their child’s stupid battles aren’t doing them any favors. And it distracts us from actually teaching, and figuring out who is really being victimized (they are usually scared and quiet, and won’t talk about it) when we have to spend hours dealing with the parents of someone who got called a name on the bus.

  81. Sara, why not tell your children that they are not to go off with strangers, EVER, and especially not these guys (whose pictures you can probably find the same way you found out about them in the first place)? Restrict where they can play unsupervised to start, and gradually expand where they can go.

  82. I am amazed at the amount of people who are saying “well by the time I drive my kid to the bus stop, we’re almost at school.” Why the heck are you driving your kid to the bus stop to start with?

    Maybe they live REALLY far from the school and are actually outside the area for bus service.

    When I was a kid, we had to walk half an hour (at a brisk pace) just to get to the bus stop, and then we were some of the first kids on. We have friends who really far out of district for their school, and who just lost their variance. The first bus stop they can get now is something like two miles from the house – that’s a 40 minute walk, and it’s AWAY from the mom’s job. I’d be reluctant to let a kindergardener walk that far alone, and this woman is a little, uh, not so free in her range.

  83. “Well, I know of at least four cases in the past two years involving school bus drivers arrested either for molesting children or producing child pornography. That may be what has caused the fear.”

    Oh wow, that reminds me. Our former schoolbus driver liked to grope the breasts of some of the little girls and grab their crotches. Heard about this from girls in the neighborhood telling my wife about it. She confirmed with their parents and other students. Couldn’t figure out why that would be an ongoing situation. Talking to a couple of the parents, they said they had complained to the school and nothing was done so they just started driving the girls themselves. Asked the school officials about this and they claimed could not discuss due to privacy, but off the record said that since the camera in the bus faced backwards it could only capture student misbehavior and not driver misbehavior and so there was no proof of the accusations. Asked a deputy about this and he said it was best to deal with it through the school and not actionable by me since my kids were not involved. Tried to create a fuss about it. Suddenly there was a woman driver and presumably the molester was put on a different route. Assuming the lack of interest of police was due to he must either have been related to someone or was a good church going fellow who is obviously above reproach.

  84. I don’t remember any physical danger riding the school bus as a kid, but I do remember lots of bullying. I suspect that hasn’t changed.

  85. I am amazed at the amount of people who are saying “well by the time I drive my kid to the bus stop, we’re almost at school.” Why the heck are you driving your kid to the bus stop to start with?

    In our case, the bus stop is too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time. When I took the bus to school, the stop was at the end of my street. Now it’s two miles away, or a 40-minute walk – not through a residential neighborhood either, but down a busy six-lane road. That’s a bit much to ask of elementary-school kids before they even get on the bus proper.

  86. My husband was sexually molested on a school bus by an older child- twice! I was just fine allowing my pre-schooler to ride the school bus last year, because there were only children his age on it. If there were a mix of ages of the kids, I don’t know if I’d allow it.

  87. We live overseas and my son attends a private, international school. His bus is great. They have real seats with seatbelts. It’s a K-12 bus, but there’s the bus driver and one other adult who helps the younger kids get buckled in and makes sure everyone behaves themselves. This will be his 2nd year taking the bus and I was happy to see he has the same bus driver and assistant as he did last year. So far we haven’t had any bad experiences and he enjoys the ride. He’s on the bus about 1/2 an hour each way, which I think is great b/c it gives him time to unwind and relax both before and after school.

  88. @SKL In my experience, being on a bus for an hour isn’t idle. You can talk to friends or listen to an entire album. It can be really nice thinking time, as well.

    However, the complaints I’m hearing are really interesting. I choose to sit at the very front of the bus where it’s quieter and there isn’t a lot of chaos, but I have heard the craziness in the back seats, but I’ve never found it a big deal (the kids participating in it do so with gusto, the kids who aren’t don’t seem to mind, and ipods exist). The only complaints I find silly are the ones related to seatbelts, but the ones related to lack of supervision/bullying are more complex.

    The fear of children with mental problems who are ‘unsafe’ being on buses is an odd one for me. I had a friend who was banned from taking the bus for a week because they suspected her of being mentally unsound (it turned out she was fine but having some personal issues, so I was saddened that they separated her from other students in that way, it must have been awkward), and that’s what brought this sort of fear to my attention, and it surprised me at the time because I’ve never considered the bus an unsafe place. I’m uncertain if it’s a legitimate worry or not. On one hand, there could be some harmful stuff happening on buses, and there is obviously some degree of ‘bad behavior’ that I’ve never approved of or participated in but never been bothered by. On the other hand, maybe it just looks bad to drivers/adults because they’re older and more protective? I don’t know.

  89. I think here, we over think safety. What happened to back in the day when people did not wear helmets to ride bikes? Isn’t that the way everyone learned that if you are not careful, you fall and get hurt? But I do understand where parents are fearful for their child’s safety due to bullies, strangers, media etc. It is hard to raise kids in a place where your child is taken away from you if you spank them for bad behavior. Kids here have total power over their parents. I know there are two sides to this issue but how do we reach a good medium?
    We need to learn to trust our kids and understand that they can take care of themselves if we teach them how to do that.

  90. Huh I loved taking the bus grades 4-6. I was the last stop, and I developed great friendships with other long-riders. I had ‘bus-friends’ that went to other schools, as my school pooled with two others for the bussing. We played cards, did homework, and chatted. I don’t recall any problems.
    Maybe I just had good kids and a good driver..

  91. “In our case, the bus stop is too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time. When I took the bus to school, the stop was at the end of my street. Now it’s two miles away, or a 40-minute walk – not through a residential neighborhood either, but down a busy six-lane road. That’s a bit much to ask of elementary-school kids before they even get on the bus proper.”

    That’s just ridiculous – the distance to the closest bus stop, not the driving. I can somewhat understand distance in rural areas – although you can’t get much more rural than where I lived for a few years and the bus still picked everyone up at their driveway. But this seems to be an urban area. I also imagine that this is partially a result of the fact that I see parents sitting with their kids in cars at bus stops 2 blocks away from their homes – the school expects parents to drive the kids to the bus stop anyway so why not make fewer of them.

  92. Bullying is a common problem on school buses where I live and increasingly so. Plenty of parents have stories of things that have happened to their kids while on the bus; some choose to continue to have their child endure the abuse, while others decide to find an alternative way to and from school.

    Not a fear-based reason for not choosing the school bus, but there is also the problem of the sheer amount of time the bus schedule requires.

    My sil and bil chose to not put their son on a bus. Not only was he already a victim of bullying in earlier grades and they’d heard stories from other parents of older children of what was happening on the bus rides, but the bus would have taken him over an hour to get home–when it’s about a 15-minute drive otherwise. This actually just compounds the bullying problem since the bus schedules allow for bullies to be on buses a long time sometimes.

    The worst bus story I have heard was from a mother whose 7yo son came home on the bus, frequently asking all kinds of questions about what different sexual terms were. “Where are you hearing these things?” “On the bus.” It turned out that the grade 6 girls on the bus were setting up sexual deals of some sort with older boys who took the same bus.

  93. We have cameras on our busses. In addition, I have childrent from age 3-18 on my bus! No seatbelts either, don’t need them. Thats just another weapon. My “kids” know they have to set down, can’t talk back to me, swear and have to behave. In addition, we are 1/3 migrant children with a language problem in a few cases.
    I don’t tolerate bullying of any kind. My front seats are the reward seats, you have to earn your seat there. The kids all want to sit behind me.
    I’ve been driving for 40 years, and in my experience, its been the parents who’ve created the most problems. When informed of their childs behavior, it couldn’t be their child! Cameras are great, we’ve even caught parents threatening us with them!

  94. “There’s nothing wrong with the bus, per say. The problems are what people have listed – extremely long bus rides, and busing – which is a failed experiment in the name of desegregation. It has destroyed neighborhoods. I bet you can correlate the rise of the helicopter parent to when busing started. I’m almost confident that busing brought on the demise of the “sandlot” – free neighborhood play.”

    Helicopter parenting is happening everywhere, including my small town with almost no racial diversity and no desegregation and neighborhood schools. I don’t think the two issues are related.

  95. I think it’s hysterical to fear the school bus. If a parent’s willing to send their kind into a school full of strangers, what’s the big deal about letting a stranger drive them to other strangers? Pick a side, people.

  96. Last week I put my son on the school bus for his first day of kindergarten. I drove to the school and waited for the bus. I watched him get off the bus and no one took him to his class. He made it there himself. The 2nd day I did the same thing. This time he was confused and walked the wrong way. No one stopped him! I took him back to the school that night and made sure he knew where to go and how to get there. We practiced until he was confident. I still went to school every morning last week. I hid so I wouldn’t take away his confidence. He made it with no problem the rest of the week.
    My biggest fear, I put my child on the bus at 8am and don’t find out if he made it there until the bus comes back at 3pm. I just trust the system. And we all know how flawed systems can be.

  97. […] August 22, 2010 // 0 Lenore at Free Range Kids has a question. I don’t have an answer. I only have a simple comment. Check it out… Categories […]

  98. I homeschool, so this is largely theoretical. But here is my list of fears I would experience, if:

    – lack of seat belts
    – large unsupervised groups of kids who aren’t necessarily friends and can’t leave (no, you can’t drive and supervise at the same time) – a sure recipe for bullying
    – lack of air conditioning and amenities on rides that are sometimes an hour long, here in the South; the inability to stop for anything short of a full-blown health emergency (leading to mild health emergencies escalating)

  99. Now a teacher, I rode the school bus 10 out of the 13 years I was in school (the last 3 I drove myself!) and experienced just about every negative thing mentioned in these comments!

    In elementary school I was bullied both at the bus stop and on the bus… and our bus stop was infested with dog droppings. The ride took 45 minutes.

    In middle school I was bullied on the bus by my own classmates and older students, I heard explicit conversations about sex that I barely understood and we had a driver who would accelerate over the bumps to toss us into the air (we begged him to do it). Once a group of us were even kicked off the bus several miles from home in the middle of a snowstorm because the bus broke down and the driver was tired of listening to us fight (we were picked up by the cops several blocks later and driven home. Driver lost his job) The ride took about an hour… I was at the bus stop at 6:58

    In high school I was bullied by my classmates and older students (once I was even slapped) and was well aware of the sexual activity taking place in the backseats. Never thought about how long the ride was, but I know I got picked up at 6:45 in the morning.

    Seldom did a bus driver react (other than to shout into the rearview mirror or turn the entire bus around and take us back to the school)… though it is also not their job to control the kids– it is their job to drive the bus safely, whatever is happening behind them. The only time we wore seatbelts was on class trips.

    All that said, I’d send my now 7 week old daughter to school on the bus in a hearbeat before joining the parent drop-off, pick up line!

  100. Pricilla, I do see where that mother is coming from. maybe it’s because her daughter would be walking alone or standing at the bus stop alone. If she had multiple middle schoolers it may be different. How many young girls and boys disappear from bus stops while waiting alone…..well i know of at least one….and her body has never been found…parents have no idea who took her…..I don’t blame the mother at all.

    Also, in reply to the original question of the blog……I sometimes wish we had a bus here in my small town, however my kids are probably better off. i remember the anxious feeling i always got getting on the bus as a young child. So many bullies and only one adult who is occupied by driving……not a good combination.

  101. My current district is pretty strict about kicking bullies off the bus, if the driver writes things up. What parents don’t understand is, I can’t write up things that happen on the bus. I have be physically present and witness things.

    What I do when a child comes to me about problems on the bus, is I sit down with them and have them dictate a quick summary and I send that to our AP. She follows up pretty quickly and has more of the history of the student’s problems on the bus at her fingertips.

  102. My 3 kids take the bus, and it has been fine for us. Our county has adult bus monitors that ride along to keep order, and the routes are not terribly long. My son, who is 7, can be very loud and rambunctious, and has had problems sitting still on the bus, but the bus driver has a card for each kid with contact info, and she called me twice last year so we could work together to deal with his behavior issues. We live within biking distance of the school, and I would love for my kids to ride, but right now the weather is too iffy in the afternoons. We live in FL, and have vicious afternoon thunderstorms almost every day this time of year. But in the winter, we have very mild weather, so I think I will let them ride bikes then. The physical exercise will probably be great for my son!

  103. The only logical explanation I can think of would be bullies, and even then that’s teaching the kid to run to mommy instead of standing up for themseles. (Not that I condone fighting)

    Off topic:
    Thought you might find this interesting.
    http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/08/20/are-petting-zoos-dangerous-for-kids/?icid=main|aim|dl3|link4|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aolhealth.com%2F2010%2F08%2F20%2Fare-petting-zoos-dangerous-for-kids%2F

    Petting Zoos, no longer a fun place to take the toddler.

  104. I don’t remember the bus being unsafe in any significant way, just deeply unpleasant, especially in middle school, when I was the last stop on the route and that meant I didn’t get a seat, because no one wanted to be near me. There are reasons I *wouldn’t* put a kid on a school bus, but not for being *afraid* to.

  105. I’m not sure there are any kids who come to my daughter’s school by school bus (most that I know of are driven😛, take the city bus, or walk [yay!]), but I could be wrong: because we work and DD goes to before/after care, we’re not often around at the time when school buses would be arriving or leaving. I definitely don’t know any kids who would be eligible for busing (it’s a very narrow range: we’re outside it because we’re a couple blocks out of area, and most of the kids DD hangs with are too close to the school to be eligible).

    However, I have heard a couple of parents express fears about their kids (especially little kids) travelling on school buses for field trips. Reasons: they are bumpy and they have no seatbelts, ergo the kids could get hurt. There have also been a couple of incidents here in Toronto that got a lot of media attention and cast school buses in a very bad light. First, a few years ago little girl (four, I think) was strangled by her scarf (I think — could’ve been hoodie string) because she slid off the bus seat and her clothing caught on something; second, every so often a little kid is let off at the wrong bus stop and it takes a while to reconnect kid and parent/home. Given the many, many kids who ride buses and the many, many buses they ride, these incidents are remarkably few and far between, but as we all know, it only takes one to make everyone paranoid😛

    Like chavisory, I had a deeply unpleasant experience riding the school bus for 2 years in junior high (I got on at the next-to-last stop and sat in the aisle on my clarinet case many mornings because no one would let me sit with them and I wasn’t smart enough to just sit down without asking first), so I can certainly think of reasons I wouldn’t want to put my kid on the school bus, but they aren’t to do with safety. If the alternatives were (a) school bus and (b) driving my kid to school, she’d be on the school bus. As it is, the school bus isn’t an option but walking and taking the city bus are, which is just fine with me.

  106. “Helicopter parenting is happening everywhere, including my small town with almost no racial diversity and no desegregation and neighborhood schools. I don’t think the two issues are related.”

    I didn’t say it wasn’t. I said that I felt there was a correlation to it and busing. There are also other trends in education that have probably fed into this whole helicoptering thing. It’s not the only cause, just a definite contributing factor. Trends in education tend to start in certain places, and filter to the rest of the country. Same with other trends in things like parenting and fashion. It may take a while, but they eventually get everywhere.

    Illene – wow. No offense, but you do recognize that was helicoptering, right?

  107. “I’ve been driving for 40 years, and in my experience, its been the parents who’ve created the most problems. When informed of their childs behavior, it couldn’t be their child.”

    A bus driver once told me my daughter was “having a little trouble keeping her bum in her seat” and could I talk to her. I said yes, and I did, and the next day when the bus driver let her off, she said, with great surprise, “I don’t know what you said to her, but it worked! Thank you!” I think the shock may have simply been the fact that a parent actually accepted the bus driver’s word and followed through with discipline (in my case, a simple warning of a consequence that would occur if I again heard that she did not “keep her bum in her seat.”) . LOL. Sometimes that’s all it takes, but I guess a lot of parents do believe “it couldn’t be my child!” or get defensive. I like to be informed when my children are acting up, and it bothers me that sometimes teachers, bus drivers, and even Sunday school teachers don’t share this information in a timely manner so that it can be addressed immediately.

    I do think the concerns about older/younger kids mixing and bullying and inappropriate exposure are fairly legitimate, and not necessarily a sign of helecoptering. I look back on my own childhood and think, if my innocence had been protected longer, I might have benefitted. All this said, I still put her on the bus all last year, because, frankly, it was easier for me, and they make the K kids sit in the front together anyway. But I’m kind of glad she won’t be riding the bus next year (different school; switched to a private school for other reasons; will have to drive) and mixing with 6th graders.

  108. For us it’s simply a time issue. My daughter would walk two blocks to get the bus at 6:45 A.M. to get to school at 7:15 when school doesn’t start until 8:00. Coming home, she would be the last stop so even though school is out at 3:00 she wouldn’t get home until 4:00.

    If she rode the bus… she’d have no time to be free range. She rides her bike a mile to school and back and doesn’t leave home until 7:30 and gets back at around 3:20.

  109. We live in San Francisco. The main reason why we will not put her on the bus is because thru my line of work in social servic es, I have heard of too many young girls being sexually assaulted in the back of the bus.

    Plus, they have cut funding for the busses so much that I’d have to travel farther to get to a stop (much earlier) than I do just to take her myself.

  110. I have only read through about half of the responses but I would like to say…

    1. Seatbelts on busses = BAD. I was a camp counselor at a camp for disabled kids and they had a full size bus with seatbelts. took 20 minutes to get all the kids buckled in and 15 to get them out. The thought of what would happen in an accident trying to get 50 kids out of a bus 8 at a time (thats how many adults we had) is mind numbing.

    2. many people talk about how much they were bullied as a child on busses. I was bullied horrifically at school due to moving often, being over weight and having a name that sounded like something it wasnt. I was bullied and when I fought back after 3 years, I was expelled (in 5th grade) because suddenly I was a danger to other students. no one cared that I had to get stitches 2 times or had a half dozen concussions or any number of regular cuts and bruises from things being thrown at me or me at them. Bullying is treated much differently now a days and placing your fears on your child without talking to the school and bus company about what their response is, is not educated parenting.

    3. many of the bus systems reporting problems with discipline problems consistently come from school districts reporting consistent discipline problems. If your school is family proactive and has a good record for behavior and education, likely the busses will have fewer problems as well.

    4. having so many school districts having to cut budgets (and often closing schools) means that students will be bussed in from further away. my son lives 5 miles from his High School, his bus is at 7:10 school is at 7:55, thats a lot of time for 5 miles but he has met other kids in the neighborhood and enjoys the ride even though it is early. we live .04 miles too close to the middle school for my younger son to ride the bus so I go into work 30 minutes late to drop him off. he rides a city bus or walks in the afternoons. public transit costs money, it adds up in a school year where a school bus would allow me an extra 2.5 hours of work each week and save me $16-$20 a month in bus rides.

    I WOULD let my kids ride the bus based on the current situation in my area. If I worried about every time they got bullied based on my life, they would never leave the house.

  111. I rode the bus for high school, and it was intimidating, but I managed to negotiate it without much difficulty. We were very rural, had a mixture of high school and elementary school students on the bus, and a mixture of rough/bullies, and quiet/non bullies. I would venture this reflects the vast majority of school bus situations.
    But I have heard numerous reports of girls being sexually assaulted or even raped on school buses. I’m not sure how founded they are, but I noticed one commenter above mentioned a specific case. Mary Pipher mentions it in her book “Reviving Ophelia.” How real a threat that is, I am not sure?? It would definitely be worth looking into–is this a real danger that should keep our kids off the bus? Or another case of helicopter parenting?

  112. Wow, we must really be in the school bus sweet spot. I never took the bus as a kid (always within walking distance, I remember being very annoyed by that!) so I have no negative associations with it and our kids get picked up at the end of the driveway at 7:20, back home at the end of our driveway at 2:15. The drivers both ways are very strong personalities who complain to us directly if our kids were out of line, right there in the moment so we all deal with it (and we sometimes hear the gossip from the girls when someone else gets in trouble too.) We see our drivers out and about in town, give them little prezzies at the holidays and always have a thank you note for them at the end of the school year for keeping the kids safe and sound.

    We’ve only been at this a couple of years and I’ll definitely be watchful for changes of personnel or my girls’ attitudes about the bus as they go and try to nip any problems in the bud. I hate the idea of so many families independently deciding to opt out when together they could probably change the problems they’re avoiding. I loved the idea of parentstaking a turn on the bus to monitor, hoo boy would that give us all a new perspective on what it’s like to drive the bus I’m sure! I would do it in a heart beat!

  113. I work in a school district and the person who makes the bus passes was in my office last week. She said some parents complain that they want a different bus driver. Like if they have a daughter they want a lady bus driver. That sort of thing.

  114. My daughter has taken the bus since 1st grade (4 years) every morning (afternoons I have to pick her up from extended day program). She loves it – she has her “bus friends”, and in fact is disappointed when she’s one of the last to be picked up, because then she gets less time to join in the fun. She wishes she could come home on the bus too. Her buses have lap-belts, which never seem to cause any problems, there’s no bullying that she has ever mentioned (occasionally some teasing which I think kids need to learn to cope with by themselves), the age-range is only 3-4 years, since that is how our district schools are organized. So most of the negatives cited above don’t appear for us. She does learn rude, but age-appropriate, songs on the bus from her peers, but that’s as it should be. In summer the kids have a longer (i.e. 45 minute) bus-ride to camp – then they have “bus counselors” (i.e. high-schoolers) to keep everyone busy, and make sure bus rules are followed. One time I had to drive my daughter to camp she said it was so much more boring with me than on the bus. I would only consider driving my kids if there was actual bullying on the bus, which was making them miserable. The possibility of bullying wouldn’t be a reason – there’s a possibility of all sorts of bad things in all sorts of scenarios, can’t stop everything because of possibilities.

    On a side note, I did have to drive my daughter to the bus stop last year – we were assigned a stop a few hundred yards down the road, out of sight on a busy road with no sidewalks. So no way to safely walk there. So because it was on my way to work, we drove there instead. This year we’re are going to insist on re-assigning the stop to be outside our house, as apparently rules allow, given the nature of our road. (Of course I’m also campaigning for sidewalks).

  115. In our case, I think it’s not fear, so much. The length of the ride is a big issue. I think it’s got to be a convenience issue. Parents ask themselves, “Do I really want to get up waaaay early, get my kids up and ready, just so they can make the bus stop in time for an hour long bus ride, for a school that is 10 minutes (at most) away? ” Those that are close walk. Many do take the bus, but I’m betting those are the kids at the end of the route that don’t have a long ride. The rest wait in car line.
    We’re out of district, so it’s car line in the morning and bus to the high school where my husband works in the afternoon. We’ve discussed the possibility of her riding her bike in the afternoon when the weather is cooler. Better option, by far. The high school is the last stop. She spends an hour riding in the afternoon. The only upside so far is that hers is the first bus called, so she doesn’t have as long of a wait to leave.
    I’d let her ride in the morning, too, but I’m a little concerned about tardiness. It’s sidewalk the whole way, but she’s rather small and it’s a loooong way when you don’t have a ten speed yet.

    Oh, yes. She’s 8. In the 3rd grade. Dislikes shoes because they make her feet hot.

  116. Bussing is bad because it destroys communities? Oh, you must be white.

  117. …and suburban.

  118. I hate the bus. It’s like Lord of the Flies only with 5x as much swearing and sex talk. The bullying is unbelievable (and its kind of hard to stand up for yourself when you are in first grade and the kid punching you is in fifth grade). And the drivers can’t focus on anything but the driving. I was following my son’s bus once and saw the kids standing on the seats and jumping across the aisle to the next seat and he just kept driving (yes I reported that).

  119. I wouldn’t hesitate to put my kid(s) on a school bus, but I’d sure kick up a fuss if there were a problem. I really have a problem with “Lauren” who talks about teaching kids to ‘run to mommy’.

    When things go wrong in school or on the bus, especially with bullying, they can go very wrong, and beyond the kid’s ability to resolve it by themselves. In my case, in first grade I was not only being bullied, but the bus driver “assigned” me to sit in the front seat with the worst fifth grader on the bus, and told me it was my “responsibility” to make sure he stayed in his seat! My parents, both teachers, had many arguments about this before my mother overrode my dad’s “She’s got to learn to take care of herself” and complained. Still, the hour and a half rides to and from school everyday were hell, to the point where I deliberately cultivated a reputation among the kids for being delusional so that I would be left alone.

  120. My kids don’t like to ride the bus. But only because it SMELLS so bad!

  121. I am a school bus driver. Gwinnett County, Special needs.

    I am appalled at some of the things I’ve read here; we don’t do many things that way in my area. Here, elementary kids only ride with elementary kids, middle school with middle school, etc.
    Special needs kids may mix grades, but it tends to be a much quieter route…usually no more than 6-8 kids, and often 1-4. SpEd also has monitors assigned to students who need extra supervision, whether for behavior or medical issues. There are not monitors on every sped bus; but you can bet if a driver has an issue, one is assigned ASAP.

    We also have monitors on the big buses…not all of them, but the ones that have problematic routes.
    Also, if a child causes problems on the big bus, he’s reassigned to a short bus. The embarrassment is usually enough that s/he straightens up his/her act pronto, in order to earn the big bus privilege back.

    We work hard at our jobs, and we don’t have much turnover, either…not like I’m reading here. We are fulltime employees with full benefits and good pay…and though we may not be rocket scientists, many of us own our own businesses and this is a way to gain health insurance. My husband and I are both self employed, and homeschoolers, to boot!

    And BTW…buses ARE safer than cars… statistics prove that over and over again. That being said, all preschoolers in my county are on special needs buses, with carseats or starseats (which is a car seat for a large child…up to 90 lbs).

    I suggest y’all start talking to the (and possibly voting for a new) school board in your areas, if the bus experience isn’t working for you.

  122. Hm. I’m not a parent myself (yet!) but I find this discussion really interesting.

    I’ve read through all of the comments, and one thing that I find really sad is how many people have found that mixing kids of different ages leads to bullying of younger children by older kids. This is something that really shouldn’t happen, and I think giving the older kids a measure of responsibility could help. To be fair, the schoolbus I took through to third grade had mostly kids my age on it, so I never experienced it from the younger kids’ side, but between sixth and eighth grade, I sort of shepherded the two first-graders who waited at my bus stop (and as a result, became their regular babysitter until they were in third grade, too). I don’t think that the majority of older kids will bully younger kids, and it seems like having these kinds of arrangements could be good for all concerned.

  123. I let my daughter ride the bus or walk since pre-school. The only exception was 1st grade when I had to pull her off the bus. She was being bullied. Not “you smell” or “your mom is fat” bullied, but physically harmed bullied. I talked to the school, the driver, the bus company, everyone I could think of but because the bullying child had “home issues” she was allowed to be physically violent to the younger kids. WTF? So I pulled her and drove her. When we moved to a different district, my daughter walked, at 7, the 9 blocks to school. This year she’ll walk the two blocks to school.

    I rode the bus as a child right up until I was punched in the face by a older black boy for not putting my window up when he demanded I do so. The school refused to discipline him because they didn’t want to be accused of racism and because he was mentally delayed.
    The driver saw what happened and didn’t intervene either.

    Buses can be nasty and often schools, drivers, and bus companies spend their time pushing responsibility for what happens on the bus to one another so nothing gets solved. I personally believe being cautious about the bus is valid, but I’d recommend at least trying it out. There are going to be “easy” routes where the kids generally get on and bad ones where it’s Lord of the Flies.. You don’t know until you try.

  124. stevie, Im with you all the way!!!
    While my suburban bus was pretty chaotic, with lots of cursing (fun) and unsafe things like seat surfing, I cant imagine keeping my kid off of it for those reasons (or any of the above mentioned). I am all for making parents lives easier, so I get the convenience factor. But not mixing with older kids?Aren’t they all going to the same school? maybe Im missing something, but I just don’t see the big scare over the school bus, ESP when compared to things i find truly worrisome (cars)!

  125. Maureen wrote: Illene – wow. No offense, but you do recognize that was helicoptering, right?

    I don’t see that. Instead, Illene was making sure her child knew what to do. If she continued going to school every day, yes, that would seem problematic. But instead, she wanted to let her son have the independence of the bus and finding his class, but realized that she needed to be sure he knew what he was doing. He is, after all, FIVE.And she did this without letting him see her, so that he could be spreading his wings and feeling confident.

    This is my difficulty with some so-called Free-Ranging … it’s as though to some, F-R means throwing your kid into something s/he’s not ready for, or without appropriate teaching beforehand, and I just don’t think that’s what it’s all about.

  126. @Jenne –

    Did I say it was wrong to ask for help? There is nothing wrong with a child admitting that they are in over their heads. However, it is NOT ok for a kid to run to adults at every small obstacle. For example, The kid who teases you for the unicorn sweater that you loved until you walked in the door? Be confident and tell them “Well, that’s your opinion isn’t it?” then walk away. The kid who is physically assaulting you or verbally assaulting you and a daily basis? Ask for help.

    TL;DR Mommy is not step 1, but Mommy IS a step.

  127. @Lauren, @Maureen and everybody:

    Every person has her own boundaries for what is an appropriate level of help. One person’s helicoptering is another person’s reckless neglect.

    Kids have suicided before over “mere teasing.” The only rule of thumb I find anywhere near reliable in judging whether to help kids or not is the opinion of the said kid. As in, if the kid asks for help, or is distressed and welcomes help, then subjectively, he is feeling the need for help.

    @Illene – the only thing I would do differently is openly discuss my presence with the child, and ask for consent and his ideas about better ways of doing it. For example, when my daughter was afraid of shopping by herself in the US (because she was afraid of busybodies interfering with an unsupervised child), we discussed how I could help and agreed on me following where she could see, about 30 yards behind, for the first few trips. This discussion also brought up other helpful “what if?” ideas and solutions, so it was valuable for both of us.

  128. It was the concussion one of my kids friends got by being beaten up and my high school dd reporting oral and every other kind of sex on the bus that turned me off. Here the elementary kids ride the same bus as the high schoolers.

  129. My kindergarten daughter rides the bus every day. She is on the bus for 1 hour each way. Her school goes up to the 8th grade and many of the students are from uncultured and rough families. Most of the bus drivers do not have control of the bus and/or don’t care. The kids say mean things to my sweet daughter or talk about subjects I do not want her exposed to. The older kids have hit her and ripped her shirt off. Basically, the bus is a rolling prison where the inmates have taken over the institution.

    I had no idea things were going to be this way and now we are somewhat stuck. I’m looking to change her school to a closer school that will not require busing, but until then I am trying to minimize the problems.

  130. I drove school buses to help pay for college. Even though school buses are probably safer these days, some drivers can easily become distracted by what’s going on behind them as far as student activity goes. If you have a bus driver that does not effectively ‘run a tight ship’ by enforcing the rules (i.e. maintaining a normal noise level) things could become interesting from a safety standpoint. Although some drivers will say that they have learned to tune out the distractions. With that said, I enjoyed my job.

  131. Our school district hand-picks “responsible” students from the 6th grade to act as “helpers” on the elementary buses, particularly to smooth the transition for the Kindergarten and First Graders. The little ones are also segregated to the front seats of the bus and the older kids to the back seats on the bus. My oldest was in Kindergarten last year and LOVED the bus. We asked him a bit about bullying because a boy down the street (also in kindergarten) was a notorious bully at school. On the bus, this boy was given an assigned seat and was never a problem. Did my son learn a bunch of “less than wonderful” words, songs and jokes during the school year? Sure. He also learned (from us) that it is not appropriate to repeat them. He had a ball.

    I was bullied terribly as a kid and I STILL didn’t really worry about it. The form of bullying I endured was all verbal, mean yes, but physically dangerous, no. I felt perfectly comfortable sending him on the bus and I feel the same way about my next son starting kingergarten next week. Bullying exists; it is my job to teach them how to deal with it, not keep them from it at all costs. My oldest, while not the brunt of excessive bullying last year, was certainly exposed to it daily because his best buddy was teased MERCILESSLY. If anything, it taught my son more empathy and how to be a good friend. I can see that I might feel differently if we lived in a district that had more crime, drugs or thugs, but we don’t. Average mean-spirited teasing is something they have to learn about, the sooner the better in my opinion.

  132. I prefer that my kids take the public bus, rather than a school bus.

    1) Cheaper

    2) More flexibility

    3) More civilized (less adolescent swearing and messing about) just a bunch of boring adults reading the paper or listening to their music on their way to work.

  133. I didn’t live in a shady neighborhood, so realistically, it wasn’t a problem. There were both good and bad drivers, mostly due to speeding. It’s a rural area for most of the ride, so sometimes they liked to breeze through the suburban areas. This was scary in the winter, where the roads got icy and unsafe to drive on. After a while, monitors appeared on our bus regularly, which made the ride a little less frightening. High school was not as bad as middle school was, because I was a small child that got bullied constantly. It was more like riding with monkeys and gorillas than eleven to seventeen year olds. After reading some of these comments, our district seemed to be pretty decent when it comes to managing the atmosphere on the buses compared to others. It only got more civil as I got older. However, I did have a helicopter set of parents that insisted on standing outside with me at the end of my driveway to make sure nothing happened. Maybe it’s not so bad when you’re five, but this was a regular thing until I graduated. Nothing ever happens on our road, and I feel lucky for this.

  134. Chewing Gum.

  135. I homeschool, but my friend’s son who is in 6th grade told me of this happening on bus:

    kids were humping (how sad they even know what this is)
    cursing
    fighting
    throwing things out of bus window

    This is a middle class town.

    I remember in high school kids smoking on bus (and I was sensitive to it.) Plus kids fighting (almost daily) and lots of sexual harasment. I remember the bullies grabbing girls breasts on numerous occasions.

    The bus is not a place I would want my kids.

  136. Bullying and assorted other chaos was always a problem on the school buses when I was a kid (& I graduated hs in 1990, so it’s definitely nothing new), and it hasn’t gotten better over the years. Expecting a bus driver to both drive safely and ride herd on 50+ kids is insane, if you think about it. There are some that can do it, usually by having assigned seats & very strict rules–but I had others that couldn’t manage to drive safely OR keep order.
    We lived in the country, about 3 miles from school (with busy roads involved), and Mom usually didn’t have a car–and she stayed home with us by running an at-home day care, so she did have a bunch of other kids, too–so no chauffeur service for us. However, once we were old enough (about 10) to ride our bikes or make a walk that long, we only rode the bus when the weather was too nasty for biking or walking.

  137. If your child is in a 5 point harness with an aide on the bus, they are on the special ed bus, not the regular bus.

  138. Well I drive my kids not because I’m afraid but because I enjoy it, I can, and I’d prefer they wait until college to learn all the really good slang words for perverse sexual acts.

    Otherwise, I honestly think “scared to ride the schoolbus” is just another way to be “more mommy than thou” among the primarily SAHM set (and I am one).

    For the most part being able to drive your children to and from school is the environ of the SAHM or people with nannies. So in our area “drive my kids” is kind of shorthand for “because I’m a better mom who doesn’t put her precious at risk and can AFFORD to after all because we are comfortable and/or sacrifice to make it possible.”

    There is a fairly famous film from a year or so ago of a school bus in Ohio that flipped quite suddenly. The video shows all the students being slammed sideways and while I’m sure that was no picnic and not something I would like to see happen to ANY child – the fact is – the children all survived and were actually quite fine. Not bad for a vehicle sans seatbelts and I daresay they would have had the same outcome in the average family minivan.

    In most bus v. anything-short-of-a-train accident the bus tends to fare very well. Those things apparently are built like tanks.

  139. This is one of the many reasons parents might be concerned about their children riding the school bus.

    http://www.kirotv.com/news/23292334/detail.html

  140. Two unrelated school bus crashes in our city yesterday have Facebook all abuzz with local parents citing “see, that’s why I don’t let my kids ride the bus”.
    http://www.rrstar.com/carousel/x1342178034/More-details-emerge-in-unrelated-morning-school-bus-crashes

    Despite the statistical fact that school buses are safer.

    My son started riding the bus in 2nd grade. His teacher commented how much calmer he was, and how much more prepared for school he was, by having that time on the bus to chill, be independent of mom and dad, and buffer his day. A great benefit of school-bus riding.

  141. “What happened to back in the day when people did not wear helmets to ride bikes? Isn’t that the way everyone learned that if you are not careful, you fall and get hurt?”

    My kids wear bike helmets, but they nonetheless understand that if they fall, they get hurt. Bloody, painful skinned knees and banged up elbows are still a pretty good disincentive, and being at a far lower risk for permanent neurological damage is just what you might call a nice side benefit, if you think that kind of thing is important.

    IOW kids got badly hurt in ways that helmets prevent. Not every day, not every kid, of course — but there is NO good reason for a kid not to wear a helmet, unless you’re really living at subsistence.

  142. My sons attend a K-8 magnet school in Chicago. They are in K and 1st grade, and I don’t have them ride the bus. I know that the Ks are paired with an 8th-grade bus buddy, but I’d still be concerned about them being generally unsupervised with kids that old for a variety of reasons, including being exposed to conversations with language and subjects that are not age-appropriate (and maybe being picked on too). By the time they’re old enough that I’ll feel ok about the bus, I’ll probably be ready to just let them ride the “L” or I’ll bike with them (5 mi. or so).

  143. On the first day of school my 5 year old grandaughter was dropped off at home alone. The check an balance system did not work I was told. She spent an evening outside for over and hour and a half in the heat. I want to know why did the bus driver dropped her off alone and why the bus driver was just transferred to another route. What if this happen to another child and what if my grandchild was harmed (thank god this did happen). Parents are working and paying taxes to the county’s that they live in and when we ask for information we want whats asked. The Board of Education should step up in once incidents are reported if reported by principals and transportation. This tells me a childs life is not whats important to the school system it’s just the numbers thay are expecting to fill a class room. My grandaughter know is picked up and dropped off at a daycare which should have happen on her first day of school. Even though the bus driver are responsible we have teachers, day care owners, pricipals who are responsible. I want answers of why is this happening and what can I do about this issue?

  144. I am a huge proponent of the bus – love, love love it! I can’t stand to sit in that carpool line with my car idling wasting my time and making my carbon footprint bigger when there is a great big yellow bus going right by my street every day. What a waste! My kids love riding the bus. Sure, they get in little fights with friends sometimes or get their feelings hurt by something that was said on the bus, but that’s really no different from recess or the cafeteria. As for friends who are anti-bus, I’ve heard the “I don’t want my child around those older children” argument and also that the bus isn’t safe. The safety reason is a big crock. Buses are MUCH safer than a car. Every study has proven that.

  145. Ok, so I am the bus driver – or at least for a small school, I carry anywhere between 35 to 45 students to and from school each day – AND YES – there is sometimes mayhem on board – The quieter kids sit up the front and the noisy kids sit up the back – where I might add I have the best view of them in my mirror, so generally I can see if something really bad is happening. (Depending on the road situation at the time I can respond or leave alone until a more appropriate moment – for safety’s sake).

    However having said that, my main responsibility is to get those children to and from school safely – that is firstly driving the bus. If parents and authorities want extra supervision then the bus would be too expensive for it to be worth while – hence ONE bus driver – supervisor.

    Like every job it has its ups and downs, its good kids and downright positively horrible kids. Bus drivers where I live have the power to revoke bus passes should really bad behaviour become apparent – like bullying etc – we bus drivers can’t be expected to drive the bus safely and monitor every word a child says.

    I have had 2 young folks banned from the bus in the last couple of weeks – one for throwing stuff out the window the other for playing chicken with the bus and chasing after the bus at his bus stop.

    At the end of the day, I love my job, love the kids and sharing part of their day. I am lucky enough to have them share the art works and writing works or whatever they have been doing with me – I don’t have a lot of time of course, but a positive word can always be given.

    As for the not so good kids – I stop the bus if I have to, to talk to them – Most don’t want to stay on more than they have to, so it is effective and pretty quick to work especially for children needing to catch connecting trains or whatever.

    Sorry, that is a bit long, but glad to join in the discussion. Overall I think busses are a great way to get around, imagine how many more cars would be on the road if we parents all drove our kids to school. My 2 children catch the bus to school too (not my bus), they report much of the problems I see written in the posts above – I guess it is all part of learning to cope with this world and we parents learning to stand back a bit so our children can learn to deal with these problems – and knowing when to step in too when things get out of hand.

    Happy bussing

  146. My kids have been injured twice from school bus accidents. Nothing too serious, stiches from seat belts flying, and broken arm when the bus flipped into a ditch. Both times, as soon as they were healed it was back on the bus for them. The first accident, the driver apparently wasnt paying attention and slammed into a car stopped at a red light, she was fired that day, so that was good enough for me. The time the bus flipped it was horrible, stormy icy nasty day, on a really narrow ditch lined road, so the driver probably should have been going slower, I didnt consider it negligent. I figure my kids were still safer on the bus, then riding with friends or even driving themselves with brand new licences. I do think they shouldnt have seat belts on buses because no kid over the age of 12 is going to use them, and those straps with heavy metal flying around was the cause of lots of bruises and stiches.

  147. “I do think they shouldnt have seat belts on buses because no kid over the age of 12 is going to use them…”

    There’s a simple solution to that: on my daughter’s bus if you didn’t keep the seat belt on, you didn’t ride the bus. Period. And if a rule as simple as that can’t be enforced, I wouldn’t trust the bus for anything.

  148. I would rather put my child on public transit then a school bus. At least there are adults who would stop him from getting beaten up. On the school bus I have heard to many stroies of the bus driver doing nothing.

    What happened to walking to school, the only people who need school buses are those who live in the country.

  149. My 28, 26, 24 and 16 year old have all rode a school bus to and from school in a highly populated metro area. I love the school bus. It is the most convenient and safe way for a kid to get to and from school. Recently some of my neighbors were afraid of their kids taking the bus saying, “that terrorist would love to take one out.” I told them you cannot go through life worrying about everything. Put your kid on the bus and get on with your daily business!

  150. Well, in an extreme case, a little girl died here on a school bus. However, that didn’t make me paranoid about school busses. My kids don’t take one because we either walk or ride to school (it’s about a 15 – 20 min walk) or they walk from the babysitters. But they did take one before. Here’s a link to the story.
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2004/04/01/ally0404001.html

  151. Because of bus drivers who rape, hit and steal children. A lot of them out there!

    One recent example near my hometown:

    http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/local/fox_cities/former-bus-driver-convicted-of-sexual-assault

  152. Hey momoftwo, please don’t tar all bus drivers with the same brush – you will find these vile persons in all kinds of positions in our society they don’t all drive a bus. Thankfully I think in reality they are few and far between. I think our kids are safer on the bus than in the family car – my kids catch a bus, and not the one I drive, the biggest problem for them is the shocking behaviour of some of the other children on board the bus.

  153. Is Momoftwo a plant? How can someone so completely embody the “fear everything!” society and still be for real?

    While the link provided is scary – so are the many links we could find every day of terrifying auto accidents where children die IN THEIR FAMILY CAR.

    Two days ago on icy, snowy backroads our school bus hit a HUGE Road department plow truck HEAD ON. It was a bad accident. The truck was spreading slag on the roads and came around a bend too fast and hit the bus which was coming around from the other direction on a road not wide enough for both. The plow was off the truck with meant it had a huge “bracket” (think “weapon”) exposed on the front end of the truck. When they met it was, I’m told, a big impact even at the slow speed of the bus. The bus driver is not at fault and couldn’t have avoided the accident – nor could any driver.

    The point? In my vehicle – an airbag laden large mini van (or even our larger truck) we’d probably all be seriously injured if not dead. In the school bus, two kids evaluated at the local hospital and sent home without a bruise, the other 40+ kids, unscathed (but with a great story to tell!)

    I’d say “bus versus HUGE truck” and all the kids walk away unharmed is a pretty good “statistic” I’ll take the very real fact that this kind of thing happens far MORE often than “bus driver turns out to be a sociopath” as a good sign.

  154. I rode the bus from second to 11th grade. I could have walked to my elementary school (and often did in the summer to play at the playground), but I wasn’t allowed to walk to school every morning because there were no sidewalks and you had to go under an underpass with no shoulder. There was one particularly nasty curve right by the underpass and we’d have at least two cars a year flip because drivers were going too fast.

    My parents both left for work at 5 a.m. and my grandmother (who looked after me) didn’t drive, so school bus it was!

    I was slapped on the bus, my hair was pulled. Kids called me a “fat, white-haired slob”. Kids told me they were going to come to my house at night and put firecrackers up my cat’s butt to blow him up. It was miserable. And because of how the bus route worked out, I was one of the first kids on the bus in the morning and rode it for nearly an hour, when the middle and high schools weren’t more than two miles from my house.

    I got my license when I was 16, but I was only allowed to drive to work on the weekends, not to school. It wasn’t until my senior year that my parents finally let me start driving. My life instantly improved.

  155. I take a school bus to school and back and some of the kids on there can be quite nasty. But I also get very very paranoid about missing the bus home after school.

  156. Kids have misbehaved on the bus to various degrees for years. I remember one particularly bad year in 1986 when some of the older kids on our bus (they were in fourth and fifth grade, and I was in second grade), were suspended from the bus for the last two weeks of school. The kids had been throwing food and getting up and walking around and screaming in the back, and the driver could take no more of it. The bus driver got her clipboard and informed all the trouble makers they were now suspended from the bus, and she expected silence for the rest of the trip. I was really impressed when she did that. My preference was when I lived a mile away from middle school and could walk there each day.

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